14th February 2021
Helleborus x hybridus
The shadow of winter has loomed over the garden this week. Fortunately there is too much in flower for it to feel like a return to the empty days where you take solace in the
abundant potential for change. This week has been more like spring-on-ice. I'm not a great fan of ice, I stayed indoors.
A dusting of snow came as a surprise. The weather forecast had shown streamers of snow cloud trailing in from the east. I didn't think they would hit me, I didn't thing they would reach this far
and I was wrong. In the middle of the week the hellebores stood out against the pale, snow speckled ground. In some ways it is unfortunate that they stood out so prominently,
the snow was followed by several days of icy, drying winds from the east. Flower stems and emerging leaves have all been desiccated though it won't be possible to assess the real damage until next week.
If I am lucky there will just be a few browned tips and the plants will bounce back. The winds were followed by a couple of days of light rain, still falling as I write this.
I am hoping that it will be enough to rehydrate the plants and the ground surface so that the spring bulbs continue to develop safely.
The hellebores continue to spread through this bed very slowly. I have a lot more seedlings to plant out but it is a job that will have to wait for another month so that I don't accidentally dig up
other plants that are still emerging. When I started this bed I spread a couple of hundred plants over the whole area. I am beginning to think that I should have started by planting thickly at one end
and filling the bed in sections through the years.
14th February 2021
Galanthus 'Egret' .
The snowdrops have responded to the week with spring-bulb stoicism. In the coldest weather they fell flat on the ground but lifted as soon as it warmed. Some of the taller cultivars
have lost their flowers. They look as though they have blown off but there is no sign of them on the ground. I think it is more likely that a hungry creature has removed them.
I have rabbits and deer in the garden but I think the culprit may actually be wood pigeons. They are large enough to do the damage and there are almost omnivorous. They are very active in the trees
at the moment. Perhaps most importantly they have very few taste receptors in their mouths so they won't be put off by the defensive taste of the snowdrops.
Galanthus 'Egret' has been looking good this year. It is an unexpected pleasure in the garden. The outer segments curl backwards in the open flowers. When I bought it I wasn't sure that
it was sufficiently significant to make a difference however as it clumps up it has started to look distinctive. It is increassing well and turning into a lovely thing.
I like the way that the outer segments don't just curl backwards, they also curl in along the edges in an untidy way that manages to suggests egrets, at least to me. A good plant well named.
14th February 2021
Narcissus bulbocodium 'Arctic Bells' .
Time flies and the past is done with, it is a very simple arrangement. Letting go of it is another matter, history lingers like a blu-tac mark on a wall. Once it held up a much loved poster,
some important assertion of identity or other, now fading in the memory faster than it faded on the wall. Remembered with a mixture of warmth and embarrassment, some pop hero or athletic figure.
In my case it was a black ink drawing of a night scene with a full moon. I have no idea why but it used to cheer me up.
Narcissus bulbocodium is one of those historical fragments that clings. I have killed it, repeatedly, depressingly and inevitably in every previous garden. Now I find that it carries with it the odour of doom.
I plant it with the finality of a funeral, there's one hole you won't be popping up from. As a result I have been inclined to disregard its survival in recent years, blaming fickle chance
for its apparent survival. However 'Arctic Bells' has been prospering and it is impossible to overlook. With the cynicism of maturity I can blame the purveyors of dry bulbs. Perhaps they used to dry them
excessively to keep the weight down. Perhaps it is just one of those invisible movements in the tectonic plates of ignorance. Whatever the reason, N. bulbocodium is doing quite well for me now
and 'Arctic Bells' is magnificent. With snow on the ground it doesn't really have arctic purity but I'm not going to quibble. If you see snow in that colour it's probably best to leave it alone.
However if you see somebody's name written in snow of that colour it is difficult to avoid a moment of admiration.
14th February 2021
Freesia viridis .
On to higher things, or lower things in this case. The garden has been inhospitable this week, the greenhouse has been welcoming. At the start of the week the first flowers opened on Freesia viridis.
I spent some time taking picture, rolling around on the floor to get a good angle. I came back to the house covered in mud and detritus. The pictures were horrible.
I went down again in the middle of the week determined to get a good record. None of the pictures were in focus, the mud and detritus were deeper, it was all very unsatisfactory. This morning I went back down there
in search of a usable picture. I lifted the pot onto a high staging, arranged a suitable backdrop and took great care to check the focus. The pictures were still blurred.
Finally I changed the lens on the camera, had a cup of coffee, calmed down and had another go. A shorter lens has helped, two of the subsequent fourteen pictures are in focus. I am very fond
of Freesia viridis, flowering in the coldest weather when there is almost nothing else in the greenhouse. However the green flowers do not photograph easily. I have hundreds of bad pictures in the archive,
testament to my determination rather than my skill. Importantly, the Freesia remains delightful with a gentle, intangible scent. It smells faintly of laughter and crushed intentions.
The Freesia wanders about the greenhouse almost as freely as I do, appearing in pots here and there, thanks to its round russet seeds that germinate freely. I don't mind,
it doesn't seem to do any harm. If it weren't there I would miss rolling about pointlessly on the floor. It has become a tradition that marks the arrival of spring.